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Imran Khan was in Lahore to ensure ‘smooth’ handing over of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman

Official sources said PM Imran Khan arrived in Lahore a few hours before pilot Varthaman and left for Islamabad after he crossed into India.

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Lahore: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was present in Lahore to oversee the ‘smooth’ handing over captured Indian Air Force pilot to India at the Wagah border on Friday, official sources said.

Khan arrived in Lahore on Friday afternoon, a couple of hours before IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was brought to the Wagah border from Islamabad, amid high security.

“PM Khan’s main purpose of being in the town was to oversee the ‘smooth’ handing over of the captured Indian pilot to the Border Security Force,” an official source told PTI.

He said during his stay Khan held a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, who praised the premier for ordering the release of the Indian pilot.

They said this gesture would establish that Pakistan was a peace loving country and wanted peace with its neighbouring countries especially India.

Buzdar said: “This move will help de-escalte tensions between India and Pakistan.”

“The prime minister stayed in the city till the time the Indian pilot was handed over to his country. Later, he left for Islamabad,” the source added.

Pakistan Foreign Office, in a statement issued after handing over of the Indian pilot to India said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan who announced his (Varthaman’s) return as a ‘goodwill gesture’ aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India.”

Wing Commander Varthaman was arrested when his MIG-21 crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for what Islamabad said “violating Pakistani airspace” on February 27.

Also read: Pakistan delayed IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s return with recording of video statement

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